Maternity Care Improvements Required For Disadvantaged Women

Mothers From Lower Socioeconomic Backgrounds Report Poorer Maternity Care


Expectant mothers from lower socioeconomic backgrounds in the UK are in need of improvements to their maternity care, as a new report shows such women typically have a poorer experience of care throughout their pregnancy.

This is the finding of a study carried out by researchers at the University of Oxford and published in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, which explored the maternity care received by women of different backgrounds.

Doctors looked at the results of the 2010 National Maternity Survey, which involved 5,332 new mothers from the UK who had given birth within the past three months, with this secondary analysis showing those from poorer socioeconomic backgrounds often experienced inadequate care. 

Background status was determined by a number of factors, including income, employment, health and disability.

Co-author of the study Professor Marian Knight stated that there were a variety of factors potentially contributing to this lack of care. She explained: "These include unplanned pregnancy, no antenatal care or late engagement with antenatal services, transfer during labour, higher caesarean section rates and poorer communication with healthcare professionals."

It was found that the most deprived women were 60 per cent less likely to have received any antenatal care and 47 per cent more unlikely to have seen a health professional as early as they wanted to.

In addition, such women were 38 per cent less likely to see a medical professional in the first 12 weeks of their pregnancy, which is considered as the most vital stage.

As women moved further down the socioeconomic scale, their likelihood of being admitted to hospital for an antenatal issue increased by four per cent and more deprived women were also 15 per cent more likely to have an unplanned caesarean section.

Furthermore, instances of these patients needing to transfer hospitals during labour were four per cent more likely than for other women.

Professor Knight concluded: "There is a need for careful planning and development of strategies to address the possible reasons for these differences in healthcare delivery and outcomes."

Expert Opinion
The findings of this report are extremely troubling, as it indicates mothers in some areas are not provided the same standard of care as those in other regions. Patient care should always be a top priority, particularly for vulnerable people, such as mothers and their new babies, and it is vital steps are taken to remove the postcode lottery element from maternity care.

“We have seen first-hand the often tragic consequences of sub-standard maternity care, which puts mothers and babies at serious risk. It is crucial all expectant mothers receive the highest possible standard of care, no matter where they live or their socioeconomic background. We hope the findings of this report are taken on board and steps are implemented to improve maternity care across the board.”
Julie Lewis, Partner